Brain Bubble posts are supposed to be short side thoughts, but the one just posted is another example of my inability to be brief. What can I say; I love words and the ideas we can express with them. To me, there are very few topics that don’t deserve a detailed discussion (you should see how much I cut out before I post)!
This post began as a comment — a reply to Lila on her recent post, Affluence, Toxic Parenting Buy Lenience for Horrific Teen DUI. It ran long, which you all know isn’t unusual and never stops me, but it concerned a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve always planned to write about driving and drivers, but there are so many other topics I just hadn’t gotten to it, yet.
Here’s what I hope is a short(-ish) intro to my views on driving…
I learned to drive in Los Angeles, and was part of the driving scene there from 1973 until 1984. (“Part of the scene” seems appropriate lingo for the time and location!) I had far-ranging delivery jobs in the late 70s and was a field service rep with a huge territory in the early 80s. I spent a lot of time on the roads — the things I’ve seen!
I will say that, at least at the time, driving was taken seriously in L.A. If you recall, for a while, we were shooting at each other for the offense of driving badly. (A strategy I always rather favored.) Despite how heavy the traffic was, it often moved along well, because everyone knew what they were doing, and — more importantly — trusted that everyone else did, too. And for the most part, at least there and then, the trust was usually well-placed.
I loved driving in L.A.! Granted, some of that may come from being paid for my time regardless of whether I was sitting — essentially outdoors — listening to tunes on the radio or actually inside somewhere working. But still, except at the worst times, driving in L.A. was fun. It was a very car-oriented culture.
There’s a great sight gag in the wonderful LA Story, starring and written by Steve Martin. In it, he goes to visit his best friend. He drives. She lives four doors down from him. A more care-worn gag is when a visitor from England mentions walking somewhere and everyone cracks up, because “No one walks in L.A.!”
When I moved to Minnesota in ’84 I was struck by the lack of pattern to the driving. No one seemed to understand that it’s a form of cooperative dance, and you have to be part of the flow. The greatest sin a driver commits is breaking the flow. There’s a huge range of driving skill here from the timid to the unskilled reckless. There is a handful of us skilled, sometimes aggressive, drivers, and a whole lot of people who clearly don’t give driving a whole lotta thought.
I dunno… maybe it’s just me, I am big on intentional behavior…. but it seems that driving thousands of pounds of metal is one place where you might want to be really fucking intentional. It’s been decades, but I’ve driven in Boston and D.C. and found the same intentionality there that’s missing here. Big city driving accounts for some level of necessary skill, I think. The problem here is that the traffic is big city, but the driving sensibility isn’t (yet).
Speaking of big city, I know D.C. has the whole corrupt politics thing going, plus being an east coast power center, but I think Southern California has it all beat hands down when it comes to self-indulgent self-gratification. In some ways, it all kind of started there! The film industry was always on the sybaritic side!
As for high-speed police chases, they do seem to cause more damage than not. Certainly being chased leads the chased to greater efforts (ever tried to chase a dog? they think it’s fun!). I say steal a page from Palin’s book: snipers in helicopters!
Okay, a little tongue-in-cheek, but driving is something I’ve always taken pretty seriously (and always enjoyed). I shall return to this topic anon!
(And less than 700 words! Okay, it was 699, but still. Of course, now it’s 712. No, wait, 714. 715. 716,… Arg!)